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Psychoanalysis is better than your reputation

Sophie Dannenberg's critique of psychoanalysis "Freud's Suffering. Aberrations of Psychoanalysis" mislead the image circulating in psychoanalysis films and caricatures. Although she interviewed at least two psychoanalytic experts (but especially critics of psychoanalysis) and has her own experience of psychoanalytic treatment, she was not able to draw a true portrait of today's psychoanalysis.

He gets stuck in outdated distorted images and does not realize what form modern psychoanalysis has long adopted. The typical psychoanalyst of today is not a scary old white-eyed man wearing "thick and black glasses" on a nose "so black as to dominate the room," but a middle-aged woman caring for her patients. Patients are kind and benign. The whole field of psychotherapy, as well as psychoanalysis, has been defined by women for many years and more. Men have long been in the minority.

Even the author's initial thesis, "a setting that has not changed to this day – the patient lies on the couch," is in fact wrong. As health insurance statistics show, classic couch placement with two to four hours a week accounts for only less than five percent of therapy services provided by psychoanalysts. The most common setting in which psychoanalysts operate today is a psychoanalytically oriented one-hour "deep psychology psychotherapy" performed while sitting.

Other settings – all without a couch – include pediatric and adolescent psychotherapy, group therapy, marital and family therapy, inpatient care, and supervision of members of a wide variety of assisting professions. Without taking a closer look at this incredibly wide range of settings and the associated different treatment techniques, one cannot obtain an appropriate picture of the psychoanalysis practiced today as a therapeutic method.

The sofa is just a symbol

Of course, the sofa is a symbol of psychoanalysis, but only a symbol. Indeed, couch placement remains primarily important as a means of training the analyst's own experience and a relatively small group of patients who are so disturbed that they need very long and intensive therapy, but on the other hand, are mentally stable and need to be well structured so that they have the particular benefit of this form of long-term confrontation with yourself.

As a mental health practitioner, Freud is not only the inventor of psychoanalysis, but also the founder of modern psychotherapy. As for the basics, all psychotherapy schools are based on his teaching. This is especially true for deep psychology schools, but also for humanities and even behavioral therapy, which definitely takes a different scientific approach. Even behavioral therapists today recognize that self-awareness must be part of training. Self-awareness, training analysis, supervision – these are distinctly psychoanalytic concepts that are based on the idea that the personality of the psychotherapist and the therapist-patient relationship are the central "working tools" in any form of psychotherapy treatment. Meanwhile, empirical psychotherapy research has proven that these are crucial factors in the success of healing. Freud's concepts of transfer and countertransference and the analyst's analysis have not lost any of their original relevance.

A critic of modernity

What about the image that Sophie Dannenberg of Freud designs as a "critic of the modern age"? Although she discusses the ubiquitous psychoanalytic cultural theory in more detail than the therapeutic significance of psychoanalysis, her view remains one-sided and superficial. The author sees in Freud exclusively "a disintegrator of German romanticism," who "deprived the soul of the indefinite, the clouded, so that it may be free." It remains attached to Freud's self-concept, J├╝rgen Habermas as early as 1968 as "scientific-incomprehensible self-understanding". This means the following: Freud understood himself as a scientist and advocated the scientific ideal of science, but in fact he practiced a form of conversation with his patients, more reminiscent of Martin Buber's dialogue and scientific theory as a hermeneutic process of social and cultural studies, a procedure that Alfred Lorenzer characterized as "deep hermeneutics."

As Dannenberg rightly states, Freud is undoubtedly a representative of the Enlightenment. His concept of reason is completely rational. The other root of his work, however overlooked by Dannenberg, lies in the Romantic period. Freud was a great romantic. He wrote hundreds of love letters to his bride, and throughout his life he cultivated a lush culture of letters, as romantic. The interpretation of dreams, the futility and the notion of the unconscious are also deeply rooted in romantic thought. From a historical standpoint, Freud was greatly influenced by the romantic philosophers. One can find in these two roots an absolute contrast. They both belong together. If the Enlightenment says: Have the courage to use your mind, then romanticism is a thesis: this is not enough, you must also use your feelings to gain insight into what is around us, our human people, and what is happening in ourselves. Erich Fromm sees the most important reason for Freud's extensive influence on culture in the "fruitful synthesis" between "rationality and romanticism" – even if Freud himself negated his romantic side.

Freud was a cultural philosopher

Dannenberg concludes his text by discussing the question, "Why do we still want to know who we are?" And why do we still often refer to Freud in answer to this identity question? He considers it a "misunderstanding". Freud is not a pioneer of modernity, but a representative of the "holistic world of pre-industrial times", which is long gone. Dannenberg thinks that the image of man is superfluous, because "through mass society we can invent ourselves at any moment." The socio-political question "how do we want to live?" Cannot be answered without explaining the image of a man.

American Newspaper Magazine time in 2006 he questioned the most important spirits of the 20th century. The cover shows Freud and Einstein: Einstein lies on the couch with a distinctly depressed expression, and Freud leans over and analyzes it. Einstein and Freud – these are the antipodes of the 20th century. Einstein stands as a symbol of almost incomprehensible technical progress, but also of the destruction of our environment, the potential self-destruction of man, and the associated image of man as unwanted side effects of scientific and technological progress. Einstein fell into depression because of this contradiction.

Freud, on the other hand, symbolizes an alternative, contrary to the human image. Freud's image of man is oriented towards an attempt to develop the inner world. So the real alternative is to Einstein's image of a man fixed on the outside, namely the scientific and technical mastery of nature. To put it mildly, the world, modernized from science and technology to the brink of self-destruction, ranges from hubris and depression. She suffers from a divine complex (Horst-Eberhard Richter) and needs a self-reflective conversation based on a model of psychoanalytic dialogue to regain her composure.